By: Molly Mayo, Executive Director
“This is the only place I can go where people are actually happy to see me,” commented a guest at Rahab’s Sisters, a Montavilla neighborhood nonprofit that offers a Friday night safe space and hot meals to women and gender non-conforming people. The mission of Rahab’s Sisters is to create community through radical hospitality with those marginalized by poverty, houselessness, sex work, violence and substance use.
Around 70 guests gather each Friday night for connection, meals, clothing, haircuts, hygiene supplies, counseling, crafts, and to find a sense of belonging. Rahab’s is a place of community, connection, and acceptance, operating in the same location every Friday night for the past fifteen years, and run entirely by volunteers until 2017 when the first executive director, Anneliese Davis was hired. “Some guests have been coming for over ten years, it’s really amazing,” says Davis, who has helped the nonprofit increase the consistency of operations and further develop the mission and resources of the organization. “This is something that is really, really special and unique– an organically grown community, making its ways for all of these years, building relationships, connection, and trust.”
Davis is excited about Rahab’s new Portrait Circle Project, made possible through a recently awarded grant from SE Uplift and the City of Portland Office of Community and Civic Life. Beginning in May, guests and volunteers at the Friday night meals, as well other women and gender-nonconforming people of SE Portland including neighbors, students, local business owners and others, will have the opportunity to have a professional portrait taken by local artist Briana Cerezo. People may keep the portrait or have the portrait included in a traveling exhibit.
The project achieves two important outcomes. “The exhibit will offer a counter-narrative to the dehumanization of those living on the margins,” Davis explains. The pictures will include people from many socio-economic conditions including people without shelter and people who are financially affluent, and will not include any labels, presenting a unifying collection of the people of SE Portland. Viewers of the exhibit will be able to see and experience the community’s similarities. As one guest said, “I hope one day people will see we are people too.”
A second outcome of The Portrait Circle Project is “around belonging and being seen, identity, and self-worth,” according to Davis. Davis noticed that many people living on the margins have no pictures of themselves or family when she once took a polaroid snapshot of a guest and it became the treasured belonging of the guest’s son, who had no other picture of his mother. Providing guests with professional photos will be a valued service to many and offer the dignity of having a portrait taken and exhibited.
For more information on the Portrait Circle Project, and to learn more about Rahab’s Sisters, to volunteer, or make a donation, go to rahabs-sisters.org.
Photos courtesy of Rahab’s Sisters